the baby and the bathwater


Stewardship
September 30, 2009, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Stewardship: it’s the word that stops churches buying MACs, stop us providing nice coffee; stops us buying comfy chairs; and definitely, definitely stops us worship leaders buying nice stuff to listen to great music on.

Stewardship: it’s about saving money, it’s about cutting cost, it’s about stream-lining workflow, it’s about finding cleverer ways to work; it’s about controlling cash flow and minimising waste.

Depressed?

I certainly am.

Of course all those things are good and noble and not without merit.

But it is still all very depressing isn’t it?

Stewardship.

Whenever I hear it my heart sinks, my enthusiasm dies, my energy levels fall, and I feel like I’m losing sight of what I love about the Kingdom of God.

Stewardship.

Makes me think of grey people in grey suits with small circular glasses looking stern.

Rather like accountants but with less sparkle.

Or like the miserable people who used to stand up in our church meetings to moan about the quality of the toilet paper.

Stewardship.

It just knocks the life out of you, doesn’t it.

Maybe that’s why the word is never* used in the Bible.

It is a deeply depressing word that we seem to have created in Christian circles mainly to stop people spending money. It’s in that same category of other Christian words that we really should stop using. Like ‘balance’ and ‘tension’. Words that we use mainly because we don’t understand the issues, or don’t have the answers, but still want to sound wise and spiritual.

As I say, the Bible doesn’t use the word stewardship.

I did find the word ‘steward’ in my bible, but then I think it was used about someone serving drinks. Other than that, it’s nowhere to be found.

Instead the Bible uses words like generosity, values, care, honour, wisdom, giving, treasure.

Treasure.

Now there’s a good word to use.

Maybe it would be better if we thought of ourselves as treasuring what God entrusts to us.

Makes more sense, doesn’t it?

Even sounds quite exciting.

Maybe we should think of ourselves as treasuring the things of the Kingdom:

We treasure the honour of God. Upholding His name, His fame, His glory. King David had a dream in his youth to be involved in re-establishing the honour of the Lord’s presence in his lifetime. When he became King of Israel one of the first things he did was ensure this dream was realised as he brought the Ark to Jerusalem. He treasured the presence of God, the honour of God, the glory of God.

We treasure the reputation of The Church. The church is God’s chosen vehicle, God’s means of reaching the world with the hope and good news of Jesus. It is ‘the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3;15). Let’s treasure it.

We treasure the people entrusted to us. As pastors we are called to care for and nurture those in our congregations. We train them, and teach them, and invest in them. We fan into flame the dreams within them and point them towards the Great Dreamer.

We treasure the vision that God has laid on our hearts. In my mind, people buy into vision and leadership far more than they do to anything else. If we stop chasing the dream, we start to die. And people walk away from us. Or as Proverbs 29,18  puts it: ‘If people can’t see what God is doing they stumble over themselves’.

We treasure the Earth in which we dwell. We look after the fruits of God’s creative energy and treasure them until the day that the Heaven Space and the Earth Space become one.

God entrusts to us these treasures of His Kingdom.

Stewardship is about ownership and control. Treasure is about value and worth.

I vote for treasure.

[written on a MAC in a comfy chair with a three shot latte in my hand, listening to music on my new iPhone 3Gs]

(*actually it is used once in Luke 19, but that is in relation to intentional theft, and then only in the King James version)



Apple Mac Wins
September 29, 2009, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There is this Kingdom of God perspective of the ‘now and the not yet’. The victory is assured, but we still need to see the battles out. As someone put it recently, it is like Liverpool being 20 nil up against Man Utd with 2 minutes to spare. Victory is assured, but still some action left.

This Kingdom perspective also applied to Apple Macs. The victory over PC’s is assured, but there is still some action to watch. And watching it is fun.

Here is an article from Charlie Brooker in the Guardian a couple of days ago.

Enjoy!

I admit it: I’m a bigot. A hopeless bigot at that: I know my particular prejudice is absurd, but I just can’t control it. It’s Apple I don’t like Apple products. And the better-designed and more ubiquitous they become, the more I dislike them. I blame the customers. Awful people. Awful. Stop showing me your iPhone. Stop stroking your Macbook. Stop telling me to get one.

Seriously, stop it. I don’t care if Mac stuff is better. I don’t care if Mac stuff is cool. I don’t care if every Mac product comes equipped a magic button on the side that causes it to piddle gold coins and resurrect the dead and make holographic unicorns dance inside your head. I’m not buying one, so shut up and go home. Go back to your house. I know, you’ve got an iHouse. The walls are brushed aluminum. There’s a glowing Apple logo on the roof. And you love it there. You absolute MONSTER.

Of course, it’s safe to assume Mac products are indeed as brilliant as their owners make out. Why else would they spend so much time trying to convert non-believers? They’re not getting paid. They simply want to spread their happiness, like religious crusaders.

Consequently, nothing pleases them more than watching a PC owner struggle with a slab of non-Mac machinery. It validates their spiritual choice. Recently I sat in a room trying to write something on a Sony Vaio PC laptop which seemed to be running a special slow-motion edition of Windows Vista specifically designed to infuriate human beings as much as possible. Trying to get it to do anything was like issuing instructions to a depressed employee over a sluggish satellite feed. When I clicked on an application it spent a small eternity contemplating the philosophical implications of opening it, begrudgingly complying with my request several months later. It drove me up the wall. I called it a bastard and worse. At one point I punched a table.

This drew the attention of two nearby Mac owners. They hovered over and stood beside me, like placid monks.

“Ah: the delights of Vista,” said one.

“It really is time you got a Mac,” said the other.

“They’re just better,” sang monk number one.

“You won’t regret it,” whispered the second.

I scowled and returned to my infernal machine, like a dishevelled park-bench boozer shrugging away two pious AA recruiters by pulling a grubby, dented hip flask from his pocket and pointedly taking an extra deep swig. Leave me alone, I thought. I don’t care if you’re right. I just want you to die.

I know Windows is awful. Everyone knows Windows is awful. Windows is like the faint smell of piss in a subway: it’s there, and there’s nothing you can do about it. OK, OK: I know other operating systems are available. But their advocates seem even creepier, snootier and more insistent than Mac owners. The harder they try to convince me, the more I’m repelled. To them, I’m a sheep. And they’re right. I’m a helpless, stupid, lazy sheep. I’m also a masochist. And that’s why I continue to use Windows – horrible Windows – even though I hate every second of it. It’s grim, it’s slow, everything’s badly designed and nothing really works properly: using Windows is like living in a communist bloc nation circa 1981. And I wouldn’t change it for the world, because I’m an abject bloody idiot and I hate myself, and this is what I deserve: to be sentenced to Windows for life.

That’s why Windows works for me. But I’d never recommend it to anybody else, ever. This puts me in line with roughly everybody else in the world. No one has ever earnestly turned to a fellow human being and said, “Hey, have you considered Windows?” Not in the real world at any rate.

Until now. Microsoft, hellbent on tackling the conspicuous lack of word-of-mouth recommendation, is encouraging people – real people – to host “Windows 7 launch parties” to celebrate the 22 October release of, er, Windows 7. The idea is that you invite a group of friends – your real friends – to your home – your real home – and entertain them with a series of Windows 7 tutorials. So you show them how to burn a CD, how to make a little video, how to change the wallpaper, and how to, oh no, hang on it’s not supposed to do that, oh, I think it’s frozen, um, er, let me just, um, no that’s not it, um, er, um, er, so how’s it going with you and Kathy anyway, um, er, OK well see you around I guess.

To assist the party-hosting massive, they’ve also uploaded a series of spectacularly cringeworthy videos to YouTube, in which the four most desperate actors in the world stand around in a kitchen sharing tips on how best to indoctrinate guests in the wonder of Windows. If they were staring straight down the lens reading hints off a card it might be acceptable; instead they have been instructed to pretend to be friends. The result is the most nauseating display of artificial camaraderie since the horrific Doritos “Friendchips” TV campaign (which caused 50,000 people to kill themselves in 2003, or should have done).

It’s so terrible, it induces an entirely new emotion: a blend of vertigo, disgust, anger and embarrassment which I like to call “shitasmia”. It not only creates this emotion: it defines it. It’s the most shitasmic cultural artefact in history.

Still, bad though it is, I vaguely prefer the clumping, clueless, uncool, crappiness of Microsoft’s bland Stepford gang to the creepy assurance of the average Mac evangelist. At least the grinning dildos in the Windows video are fictional, whereas eerie replicant Mac monks really are everywhere, standing over your shoulder in their charcoal pullovers, smirking with amusement at your hopelessly inferior OS, knowing they’re better than you because they use Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard.

Snow Leopard. SNOW LEOPARD.

I don’t care if you’re right. I just want you to die.



Uncomfortable?
September 28, 2009, 7:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The primary purpose of the church is to worship God. Not to make disciples. Not to run community projects. Not to run Alpha courses. Not to serve the poor. Not to heal the sick. Not to run conferences. Not to create leadership networks. Not to establish small groups. Not to engage with world mission. Not to evangelise the nations. It’s primary purpose is to worship.

Writing those words makes me feel uncomfortable.

You may even more so feel uncomfortable reading them.

But I recon they are true.

I feel uncomfortable with such words because they may make me look as though I am not missional, not servant hearted, not compassionate. And of course I want to be all those things. And, truth be known, I possibly even want to be recognised for being all those things. But I have to face up to it. My primary purpose as a follower of the King is to worship the King. Sing to Him. Adore Him. Lift my hands to Him.

You see, it is so easy to move very quickly on from saying

‘our primary purpose is to worship God’

to

‘and this also means serving the poor, healing the sick, evangelising the nations…’.

In fact it almost needs to happen in the same sentence to avert accusations of poor theology. In fact almost all standard worship teaching will do that. Otherwise it wouldn’t be sound would it?

But maybe we should all pause a little longer in that place – that place of adoration of God without any expressed intention to move on and out. That place where we stand before God and sing, and have no other purpose in that moment other than blessing His heart with the sound of our songs. Maybe we need to pause in that uncomfortable place, leaving ourselves open to accusations of extravagance, lavishness, inactivity, just a little bit longer than we are doing at the moment.

Because if the church looses sight of it’s primary function – to worship God – then it will start to die from the inside out. The disciples will start to disperse. The community projects will start to wind down. The Alpha course will close. The poor will increase. The sick will perish. The conference will fall into financial ruin. The leadership network will implode. The small group will cease to meet. And world mission will stop dead in it’s tracks.

Now that would be uncomfortable.



Cool or what
September 23, 2009, 6:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Was in Oxford with a friend recently, and after a meeting and some serious discussion on writing and theology and worship, we ended up in another coffee shop and started talking about our other passion: photography and camera gear. My friend has just brought a new camera – an olympus pen – and it is very very cool. Not cheap. But very cool. Reminds you of cameras in the good old days. It’s compact but not trivial. And it looks amazing.

After yet another coffee he took a picture of me.

Just the right amount of Designer Stubble.

A touch of Deep and Meaningful.

A healthy dose of Dreamy and Mysterious.

Perfect.

P9111038



We need to go deeper
September 21, 2009, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A new term, and once again I am heading out in the hope that I will be able to contribute some creativity, something new to our church, and maybe to the New Wine network that I am part of, that will help us grow in our worship opf God. As I think about it, part of me is excited. But alongside that I am challenged: what will make this year a good year for songs in our church and network.

And this is what I think God is saying to me, to us: “Go Deeper. Go deeper in My Word before you come up with a lyric. Search hard for the new diamond before you start to shape it into a melody.”

I am convinced that as I look around me, as I listen to the cd’s that are coming out at the moment, that there is one realy big thing that we all need to learn, and that is to search harder and longer and more intentionally for the next jewel that will become a song. Most lyrics that I hear these days are flat and predictable. I’m not saying that they are not good, or not birthed from a seed of inspiration from the heart of God. I just don’t think we are all going deep enough with them, and with Him, before we come back to the surface and ask our church to join in and sing what we have created.

That is my theme for this next year.

To go deeper.

Anyone want to join me?



Book I Read Over the Summer
September 3, 2009, 6:27 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here  are the books I read this summer

Billy Graham Autobiography

A huge read – over 750 pages – but one of the most captivating acounts I have ever read. There is so much that is inspiring from this story that I could write a book on the book. But one of the main things that strikes me is the longevity of his ministry. How he kept going over the long hall, and the things he did along the way to make that possible – holding onto his primary call and not getting distracted; working with a core bunch of people over the whole time who really understood the work; the things he put in place to protect from financial or sexual temptations or accusations.

And let’s remember above all – this guy worked hard. With so many people, especially in the postmodern community, telling us that Kingdom life is more about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ this comes as a breath of fresh air.

The Shack

Thought I would read this one as it is selling so well and causing so much discussion amongst Christians and non-Christians alike. I even noticed that at New Wine there was a seminar series about the book. I’m not denying that many outside the church will find this accessible – that’s amazing. And I did enjoy the poetic unpacking of some deep theological issues such as the Trinity. But other than that I can’t say I really liked it. A bit too cheesy and a bit emotional for me. Still…each to their own.

God wants to save Christians – Rob Bell

Started really well – a great first half talking about the kingdom and justice. Then it seemed to take a sharp left and lost it’s way. Seemed like there is only half a book here, with a couple of previous sermons tagged on the end. I wonder whether the pressure to produce yet another book has caused this one to come out before it was really ready.

A couple of Geoffry Archer novels

Still the master story teller. I end up reading most of his books a couple of times just because they are such a great read.

Sale – James Patterson

I gave up reading James Patterson a few years ago when he started churning out bad books that have been co-written with other people. Thought I would try the latest one to see if it had improved. It hasn’t.

Dreams from my Father – Barrack Obama

Very well written – a book from well before the presidency was on the cards. Great to find out about the history of the man, and to come across an American president who can string words together well.